Rockets Acquire Ty Lawson

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

JULY 20TH, 4:25pm: The Nuggets have waived Prigioni, and the deal is official, Denver announced in a press release. In a condition of the trade, Lawson has agreed to make the 2016/17 season, the final year of his contract, non-guaranteed, sources tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link). As part of the deal, the Nuggets receive cash considerations, Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston tweets. The press release from the Rockets notes that it’s their own lottery-protected 2016 pick going to Denver.

SUNDAY, 8:16pm: The Rockets have reached a deal with the Nuggets that will send Ty Lawson to Houston, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Marc Stein of had tweeted just moments earlier that the sides were deep in talks. Kostas Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni, Joey Dorsey, Nick Johnson and a protected 2016 first-round pick go to Denver, Wojnarowski adds (All Twitter links). Houston will receive a 2017 second-round pick in addition to Lawson, as Wojnarowski also reports (on Twitter). The first-rounder going to Denver is lottery-protected, and the second-rounder headed to Houston is unprotected, tweets Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The move, when it becomes official, will bring an end to Lawson’s tenure with the Nuggets even though GM Tim Connelly and coach Michael Malone both expressed their support for the troubled point guard in recent days.

Chris Mannix of last week identified the Rockets as a team with interest in the point guard even in the wake of his latest DUI-related arrest, which came Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. It was his second such arrest in six months. Lawson entered a 30-day residential treatment program on Saturday.

Houston made more sense as a Lawson suitor than the Pistons or the Lakers, the two other teams Mannix identified in his report from last week, since both Detroit and L.A. made major investments in point guards this summer. The Pistons agreed to re-sign Reggie Jackson for $80MM and the Lakers drafted D’Angelo Russell No. 2 overall. The Lakers indeed made a determined push, but the Nuggets preferred what Houston offered, Stein reports (on Twitter). Rockets re-signed Patrick Beverley, but only for $23MM over four years. Beverley and Lawson now figure to compete for minutes.

The Kings and Nuggets reportedly spoke about Lawson prior to the draft, but Sacramento apparently wasn’t willing to give up the No. 6 pick in exchange for him in large measure because of the 27-year-old’s off-court issues. By contrast, Lawson’s talent appears to have convinced Houston it’s worth taking a shot on him, as he’s coming off a career-high 9.6 assists per game.

The trade nonetheless carries financial consequences for the Rockets. Lawson’s contract calls for him make more than $12.404MM this season and in excess of $13.213MM in 2016/17, and the exchange as reported so far will push Houston over the $84.74MM luxury tax threshold by about $500K, according to former Nets executive Bobby Marks (Twitter link). The Rockets have until the end of the regular season to go under that line and avoid paying the tax. Houston faces a hard cap of $4MM above the tax line if it signs No. 32 pick Montrezl Harrell to a contract that covers more than two seasons at the minimum salary, as Marks also points out (on Twitter). The swap also means the Rockets aren’t in line to open cap space next summer, Marks adds (Twitter link).

The Nuggets meanwhile go under the cap with the deal and are set to open an estimated $46MM in cap space next summer, Marks tweets. Papanikolaou’s salary of nearly $4.798MM for this coming season is non-guaranteed, and Prigioni’s salary of almost $1.735MM carries only a $440K partial guarantee. Dorsey’s pay of about $1.015MM and Johnson’s approximately $845K salary are fully guaranteed, but they don’t make much of a dent in the Nuggets payroll.

The most significant on-court effect for Denver is that No. 7 overall pick Emmanuel Mudiay, also a point guard, has a clear shot to lead the team. The Nuggets re-signed Jameer Nelson, who seems to have a decent shot to begin the coming season as a starter, but Mudiay is clearly the team’s future at the position, and Malone had no shortage of enthusiasm about his play during summer league, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.

Did the Nuggets get a fair return for Lawson, considering the circumstances? Leave a comment to have your say.

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